Picture Pages: Open All Day

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2008 at 11:11 AM

So, yeah, the 3-3-5 stack was sort of a spectacular failure. Not so much against the run, as Michigan did a decent job against Korey Sheets, but against the pass. Michigan allowed 266 yards—7.8 YPA—to a third string quarterback on a 2-6 team. That is epic failure.

Why did this happen? Well, IMO, the stack had a a major part in it. Here's a typical presnap alignment:


The thing to note is the one deep safety. This is Donovan Warren. With one deep safety the corners are basically on an island; they won't get much deep help from Warren on a sideline route. Fades and fly routes are going to be left up to the corner to defend.

Michigan, then, often sees itself play a cover-three susceptible to little hitches and out-cuts. Here's a closeup of Morgan Trent on one of many, many ten-yard outs that Purdue will find wide open all day:


We've just started the route. Greg Orton is going to run directly at Trent.


Trent is turning his hips inside and looking at the quarterback.


Here we see Orton reaching Trent, with Trent turned completely away from him, not even looking at him.


Orton begins his break with Trent facing 180 degrees the wrong way.


Orton now has two yards of separation and Trent is still facing the wrong way.


The perspective on this makes it difficult to tell, but this is wide open for ten yards.

Here's the video:

Michigan's corners have been coached to do this. Trent would do it all day, and Boubacar Cissoko did it on the long Orton completion down the sideline. This coverage style covers that extremely well and the only thing that made that a completion was a perfectly thrown ball, some bad luck on Cissoko's part not to knock it down, and a great catch by Orton.

However, every wide open hitch or out was because of it, too. It's completely impossible to flip your hips around 180 degrees that quickly, impossible to do anything but tackle after a first down. So Michigan provided this n00b quarterback with the easiest reads in the history of reads most of the day, and ended up paying for it.



November 7th, 2008 at 11:29 AM ^

Right on, Brian.  We gave the converted RB the most wide open, easiest to throw, short routes ALL DAY LONG. I mean, really, what the fuck. And that one well-covered, crazy-ass deep completion to Orton shouldn't have had any bearing on what coverage we chose to use. That play was an anomaly.

At the very least, if our CBs our going to use this coverage technique at least make sure they know where the 1st down marker is and protect the fucking sticks!

God, that was frustrating to watch.

You know what scares me? Jim Herrmann was considereing a young, brilliant defensive mind, too. How did that one end up working out? 

I'm not sayin'... I'm just sayin'.

Bielfeldt's Calves

November 7th, 2008 at 11:29 AM ^

Huge. Huge problem with this coverage. As a corner if you are playing an outside technique like this where your help is inside and you're suppose to take away the outside you need to stay outside the receiver. Lining up on his inside shoulder and then turning to the inside is wrong, wrong. If Morgan is positioned and stays on his outside shoulder he can adjust easier to the hitches and outs. You may give away slants and such, but in theory the free safety and/or linebackers should be there to help. Makes no sense to me.


November 7th, 2008 at 11:50 AM ^

I'm not sure if Michigan was playing this way or not, but sometimes 3-3-5 corners will play inside and sink to the middle a little to help the free safety on 4 vertical.  Its also the responsibility of the flat player to get underneath these routes and make the throw very difficult.  On a couple of the sprint out passes, Purdue would send a TE or fullback short, and the flat player would jump this route leaving an easy throw on the outside.  So they were creating a 2 on 1 on the flat player knowing the corner was playing off.  Maybe after seeing this Michigan could have gone back to a 3-4 with press corners?   

The Original C

November 7th, 2008 at 12:56 PM ^

the Lbs not jumping these ultra short 2-3 yard routes...something along the lines of "not fucking the ugly Sally" or something in his blog a while back!!!! We are okay trying to tackle some dude who has got 2 yards on 2 and 9 (he might still get a first down with our iffy tackling but......) rather than tackling a dude with a 10 yards reception in the same situation.

Rush N Attack

November 7th, 2008 at 11:35 AM ^

man coverage right off the line, blitzed some lb's (which I love, because even if you don't get to the qb, it forces him to make quick decisions), and watched the n00b qb throw one long td after another.*

If "man to man" with our db's is like the Guillotine, then this "10 yard cushion defense" is like Crocodile Shears.**



*See Golden Tate




November 7th, 2008 at 11:52 AM ^

being aggressive and getting beat that way, as opposed to a slow, painful death which has been taking place all year. RRod stressed that we cant give up the big play, well we have been "conervative" with our coverages and blitz packages and still give them up. So, all things equal at least give them up while being aggressive. Giving Siller a clear lane to thrown the ball with a 10 yard cushion is something that any High School QB can do. Making him throw a deep ball with a blitz coming on is more difficult. No reason why we should not have played more man and forced him to be more accurate.


November 7th, 2008 at 11:46 AM ^

Comparing converted-RB-guy to Clausen is shaky until Siller were to, you know, actually PROVE us wrong.  Once Siller had proven that he can make those quick throws ALL DAY, you then need to see if the kid can also throw accurate deep balls over the top.

Plus, like drakeep said, using inside coverage technique while being INSIDE the receiver makes ZERO sense!  And even if that was just stupidity from our 5th year SR, Gibson needed to STOP that shit from happening. C'mon, coach 'em up!

Rush N Attack

November 7th, 2008 at 12:01 PM ^

I wasn't comparing Clausen with Siller. I was comparing the expected results of two different coverages.

I actually would PREFER we played aggressive man to man with a heavy dose of blitzing. My point was that the results would have probably been the same, so I'm not going to get all worked up about it. We have shown we can't play either very well.

So I call Bullshit on your Bullshit call. Ha!


November 7th, 2008 at 11:59 AM ^

So, what you're saying Brian is that, in your opinion, COACHING might've just been a problem with the terrible performance by our defense last Saturday?



November 7th, 2008 at 12:06 PM ^

so you're the one who needs to chill out. My point was that your theory is flawed if and until Siller PROVED he could actually make that deep throw.

Was Siller ever forced to prove he could make that deep throw?  NO.  For you to ASSUME that Siller could hit those deep throws accurately is a big assumption. That is all I was saying.


November 7th, 2008 at 12:31 PM ^

Depressing is right. This illustrates the complete clusterfuck that the defensive coaching has been so far, and RR put them all in place. What's really mindboggling to me when I see all this is that RR was a DB in college, so you'd think he'd be particularly tuned into horrible secondary play, and how to correct it. All of this is why I've become more than a little skeptical about his ability to turn things around here. If he coaches the full length of his contract I'll pleasantly surprised. Having to make another coaching change in a couple of years would be a bad indication.


November 7th, 2008 at 12:58 PM ^

And Don, let's not get carried away.  I still think RR is a great football coach. 

Yes, I'm asking some questions and voicing some concern, but I am definitely NOT advocating that anyone be fired.

Durham Blue

November 7th, 2008 at 12:58 PM ^

Ridiculous.  But it's very representative of what the secondary has been doing all year.  Michigan needs to go to the 4-3, blitz frequently, and play tighter man coverage.  Put the onus on the experienced D line to force QB's to hurry their throws.  This is the strength of Michigan's defense.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:07 PM ^

if Brian is right about the coached technique this is bad, very bad.  The commentator during the game said that he couldn't understand why our corners were giving their WR's so much cushion, particularly (the comment was in the 1st Q) when Siller hadn't proved he could beat us with the pass.  In other words, our scheme gave the QB confidence because of easy reads and bad strategy.  That seems like poor coaching to me, not to mention the lack of wisdom in going to a new scheme in the 9th game.  Anyone see it differently?


November 7th, 2008 at 1:12 PM ^

Can we stop calling Justin Siller a converted running back?  Please?!?!

Siller was the #14 dual-threat QB in the class of 2007.  He was a backup RB because Purdue had an incumbent starter, Curtis Painter, as the quarterback.  It's not like he was Brandon Minor, who never played QB even in high school, and then all of a sudden was a starting QB in Division I football.

I'm not saying Michigan shouldn't have done better.  But some of you (caup especially) are pretending Joe Tiller had to teach him how to throw a football.


November 7th, 2008 at 1:20 PM ^

Also, in Cover Three, the three deep men (usually the two corners and the FS in the 3-3-5) are supposed to stay deeper than the deepest offensive player in their third.  Trent's coverage wasn't too bad, although when he's covering a big possession receiver like Orton, he could afford to have a tighter cushion.  It's not like Orton is going to be able to outrun Trent.  That being said, the underneath coverage should be better at taking away angles for shorter throws.  The OLB or SS with flat responsibility should be speeding out there to tip, intercept, or discourage underneath throws.


November 7th, 2008 at 6:37 PM ^

I called that play out in real time on one of the other blogs...as it happened.

 Trent's "technique" was complete and total bullshit on that play, and it is indicative of this entire season, from Trent and the secondary.

 If the receiver is more than 7 yds or so from the sideline, Trent needs to line out 'outside' of the WR, (not inside as he did here)...and square his shoulders diagionally so he can have the WR on his inside shoulder and can look in at the QB... this gives him the advantage of:

a) positioning 

b) vision

c) the ability to jam the receiver forcing him inside and/or off his route.

d) the flexibility to either cover the out route, or still have the receiver covered quite well on just about any route he choose, including the post, curl, streak.  Even a slant, you would have good positioning on, and you would also be able to force the play inside to our speedy LBs and excellent safetys... (ok in theory anyway).

For a veteran guy to take that piss poor technique is an indictment of him and the coaching that he must be receiving...its pure BS.   If he is being coached that way for the "sake of the scheme", well it is poor technique in ANY scheme...and wasnt Shafer the guy that said "scheme is overrated"?  OK then... teach them fundamental techniques and dont have them flopping around based on the piss poor scheme.


November 7th, 2008 at 8:25 PM ^

This technique is played to try to get the advantages of man-pressure on the receivers while still getting zone advantage to contain a running quarterback, avoiding getting the DBs turning away from the quarterback on mid-routes.  This was calculated based on the rook qb not being able to deliver strong out throws to the field.  The compromise turned out poorly because of the cushion required without safety help, and that Siller was mostly contained on the run.  He outperformed on his supposed weakness and underperformed on his supposed strength.  M showed no adjustment on this. 

They've been trying to solve too many problems at once: poor safety play other than Harrison, getting more quicks on the field to prevent bad big-on-quick matchups, inexperience at one corner, and injury to Williams (a tweener big/quick).  Previously the attempt to mitigate the big/quick matchup problem has been done with Mouton and Williams working hybrid out of the 4-3. Betting M's 5-6 bigs could beat the run worked out pretty well.  What they considered the lesser gamble -- to force Siller to throw -- didn't.  What I didn't understand was the lack of adjustment -- after a few drives worth of field-eating outs, moving back to a man under cover 2 in a nckel or at least doing so to the short side of the field seemed to make some sense.  Whatever.